So, you’ve outshone the majority of candidates to secure the interview, now it’s time to prepare. An important, and sometimes overlooked element of the interview process is asking the right questions. This is vital and has two key benefits: First, it demonstrates how well you’ve prepared, and second, you’ll be able to decide whether the company and role is right for you.
I’ve been on both sides of the interview process and now I’m in the position to advise candidates on what to ask. I’ve written eight key questions to consider asking when preparing for an interview. These questions are in no particular order. Some are generic, however, still extremely important to ask and some are specific to in-house legal interviews.
1) How is the legal department structured within the company?
This question will give you a good idea about the size of the legal department, as well as the individuals you will be working most closely with. Your interviewer may also give you information regarding support staff and whether you will be dealing with outside counsel. This could be especially relevant if the company is global, so you will know exactly who you might be dealing with under various circumstances. You will also be able to determine whether your prior experience is a true fit for the role.
2) What will be the reporting structure for this role?
The answer to this question could indicate the level of responsibility of the role, depending on who you would be reporting to, i.e. the GC, VP or CEO. If you are interviewing for a senior level position, it is critical for you to understand the line of reporting. Once you know who you would be reporting to, it could be a good idea to request meeting with that person, if possible.
3) How would you describe the company’s culture and working environment? Is it more collaborative or independent in nature?
Asking about the company’s culture indicates that you want to optimize your performance and that you understand that the atmosphere around you can be a crucial factor in your success at a company. Finding out whether you will be working in more of a team setting or on your own could very well factor into your decision whether or not to take the job.
4) What have you enjoyed most about working here?
This type of question shows the interviewer that you care about their own experience at the company, and, in a round-about way, gets them to tell you why you should be working there. It also might give you a more personal insight into the company and culture, beyond just the role you are interviewing for.
5) What are the most business critical issues you think the company will face in the next twelve months?
This question demonstrates that you are thinking ahead and that you want to be prepared for any challenges the company will face in the near future. It also conveys a real interest in the job and that you are thinking past the scope of the role and about the company as a whole.
6) Are there opportunities for growth and advancement here?
This question emphasizes your desire to progress and that long term growth within the company is important to you. It shows that you will be committed to the company and conveys dedication and determination. The answer will also give you some insight as to what the company’s general feeling is on internal promotion.
7) Is this a newly created role, or was it held previously by someone else? If it is the latter, why is that person leaving the role?
This question is another good way to find out more about the company’s culture and why the previous person left. If the interviewer is candid, you may get some real insight about the role, including some challenges or difficulties faced in the past.
8) What is your time frame for making a decision on this role and what are next steps?
This is the perfect question to wrap up your interview, as it solidifies your interest and shows that you want to be prepared going forward. Typically, companies have a standard interview/hiring process, so if they give you details about their next steps, it will probably be a good indicator to you whether they actually plan to move forward with you or not.
While I’ve outlined the questions above as vital to ask, it is important not to recite them. Try working them into the conversation naturally and take brief notes of the answers given, as writing everything down that is said will give a negative perception. Most importantly, ask the questions that will help you make an informed decision on whether you want the job.